In 2013 I will be interviewing professionals who have made it to partner – and sometimes out the other side! I have already interviewd Judy Dyke and Jason Wainwright and today’s interview is with Paul Etherington from Grant Thornton. What made you want to go for partner? I come from a family business background. I joined the #1 firm focussed on advising dynamic businesses as a way of gaining experience with other entrepreneurial companies to take back to the family business. To cut a long story short, as I started to gain that experience, I decided to stay. It probably sounds a bit arrogant but it became quite a binary decision: be a proprietor in the family business or a proprietor at Grant Thornton. What does ‘having a life’ mean for you – and how do you make sure that you have a life outside of work? As other interviewees have said, it’s about giving the business high quality time as well as having both time and energy left for friends, family and myself. That might mean watching the children do drama or sport or being involved in homework (we can now sit side by side, them studying, me doing emails!) or still having time to take some exercise. Talk us through a typical day for you as a partner The common features of every day are contact with clients, some sort of BD (business development), hopefully some coaching and a few laughs. I receive >100 emails a day, so most evenings involve a couple of hours of going through those to ensure I am up to date with client and management matters and not holding up colleagues. One thing’s for sure, the diary never tells the whole story. Our free weekly planner may help you, like Paul, keep all the balls juggling in the air at the same time (email required) What support team do you have around you to help you succeed at work, whilst still enjoying a life outside of work? Aside from a hugely supportive family, I have been working with my PA on and off for nearly my whole time with the firm and would be lost without her. I am very lucky to work with some brilliant people who share my approach to client service, as well as being close to, and well supported by, a number of my partners who I have known for many years: real friends as opposed to business friends. (Find out why you also need a support team and who should be in your support team.) What was the hardest thing about going for partner? Probably demonstrating a track record in relation to BD. Professional services firms were much simpler structures in the late 90s, so I went straight from manager to partner, and the “manager” title made door opening difficult. With the benefit of hindsight, what do you wish someone had told you before you got to partner? In mountaineering terms, it’s a “false peak”. I have developed and grown as an individual more since I became a partner than in the period prior to my appointment. What changed when you went from a director to a partner? The director role didn’t exist, so notwithstanding the fantastic support I had been given by the partners of the day, it was quite a change, not least signing the firm’s name for the first time. What tips would you give to other professionals who want to make partner AND still have a life? Organisation and full use of technology makes a massive difference. I’ve done more than one international conference call in multiple time zones whilst juggling domestic responsibilities! And it’s certainly worth investing the time to set up short cuts for all sorts of things.
Paul Etherington joined the firm’s Reading office in 1990 – completing his training in what became the Thames Valley office in High Wycombe. Having undertaken secondments to the firm’s National Leadership Team and Forensic Investigation unit in London, he returned to the Thames Valley office being appointed an audit & transaction support specialist partner in 1998. He transferred to London Corporate Finance as head of Transaction Services for the SE region, a role which he undertook for 2 years before becoming office managing partner, first in Gatwick and then Slough. Paul combines his responsibilities servicing clients in the firm’s offices in the South East with his role on the firm’s National Leadership Board where he is responsible for Quality & Professional Standards.